Hispanics have played a big role in the population growth that is bringing Florida two additional seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, and Latinos in the Orlando area want to ensure the redistricting process translates their increased presence into political clout.
This process is carried out every 10 years following the census.
The 2010 Census showed an increase of 57 percent of the Hispanic population in Florida, making it a bloc capable of influencing the coming elections.
"Today there isn't a Hispanic congressman in Central Florida, nor a state senator, even as there are no commissioners on the Orange County Commission or the school board," retired U.S. Army Col. Dennis Freytes, a commuity activist, said during a public hearing with legislators in Orlando.
At the hearing, some 700 people including many Latinos and African Americans took the opportunity of talking face to face with some 40 state lawmakers working on the redistricting process.
"This community wants and needs better representation," Emilio Perez, head of the Central Florida Redistricting Council Inc., said.
"Every time the politicians do redistricting, we split the Latino community into several different pieces and that makes it difficult for us to get proper representation. That has got to stop," he said.
Hispanics, mainly Puerto Ricans, accounted for almost half of the 541,000 new residents of the Central Florida counties of Orange, Osceola, Volusia, Lake and Seminole over the past decade.
"For many years the Latino community has been growing. They need districts that better reflect their numbers," Juan Cartagena, president and general counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF, said at the hearing in Orlando.
"The two congressional districts the state gained as a result of its growth are directly related to the increased numbers of Hispanics," he reminded the state legislators.
This is not the first time that Hispanics of Central Florida have sought better political representation.
In 2004, Hispanic community leaders filed a lawsuit that resulted in a consent decree under which Osceola County created a new Latino-majority school board district.